Last season, the Blue Jays ran out one of the more potent offences in baseball and one that ended up leading the league in home runs, total bases and OPS. A lineup that produced at such a high level usually isn’t rumoured to be a front runner for a key offseason trade piece.
Personally, I would love to see Ramirez in a Blue Jays uniform. Over the last five seasons, the three-time MVP finalist has posted a .911 OPS, while averaging 29 long balls and 22 stolen bases a season. The Dominican native also swings from both sides of the plate, and would add some diversity to a lineup that has recently been very right-handed heavy. Ramirez’s elite hit, run, field and power tools make it easy to see why the Jays pursued him this past deadline, and why there are rumours that they will continue to do so once the offseason officially begins.
Bringing the three-time All Star into the fold would be a fantastic addition, but with the current state of Cleveland’s organization and the variety of needs the Jays have to address this winter, I believe the opportunity is there for GM Ross Atkins to get a little bit greedy, and look to pull off a super trade with his old club.
Now, the Jose Ramirez trade rumours are pure speculation at this point, but there were many reports stating that Cleveland was ready to deal Ramirez last offseason. Cleveland has always struggled financially. They had the lowest payroll in baseball last year and have consistently shipped out key contributors such as Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Brad Hand (waived not traded) in order to cut costs and save a few dollars.
Trading away a franchise player in Ramirez would definitely be a financially based move, but wouldn’t be one Cleveland makes due to his current salary. The Dominican native is set to make a mere 26 million dollars over the next two seasons, which is a bargain for the production he brings to the table. After those two years are up, the three-time All Star will most definitely see a rise in his salary that could nearly triple in annual value.
Considering their current financial situation, Cleveland is going to have a hard time hammering out a new contract with Ramirez. This is why most people in the baseball world feel that the organization would be better off cutting ties with their superstar now in order to maximize what they can get in return.
Cleveland has a sub par roster, a mediocre farm system and an inability to bring in impact players on the open market. Combining these factors makes it unlikely that they will be competitive within the next two to three seasons, and gives GM Mike Chernoff even more incentive to move Ramirez while he still has multiple years of control. If Cleveland decides to go in this direction, there are other players that could fit the same mold.
Shane Bieber and Franmil Reyes are both entering arbitration and though they both have three years of team control remaining, moving on from Ramirez would push Cleveland further away from contending in the near future. Reyes and Bieber have been worth 4.2 wins per season combined over the last three years (taking into account that 2020 was shortened so this would be a little higher). This win total will not be enough to push this team over the top and turn them back into contenders.
Based on Cleveland’s recent handling of key players, there is a high probability of both Reyes and Bieber getting moved within the next 18 to 36 months, once they get deeper into arbitration and are less affordable. If Chernoff is wise, he’ll be proactive and as with Ramirez, look to maximize the value of both of these key assets, which may involve shopping them this offseason as well.
There are other controllable players on Cleveland’s roster that I believe could be candidates to get moved if they do decide to go in the direction of a full scale rebuild. Both Aaron Civale and Emmanuel Clase are still in pre-arbitration, but both are coming off fantastic seasons.
Combining their age, cost and recent production, their trade values may never be higher, so would it be worthwhile holding onto a closer and a 2-3 starter during a rebuild that may see both players walk before they are out of it, or, again, would Cleveland be better off to capitalize off their high value and retain some good young talent while beginning to restructure their organization.
I believe a full scale rebuild is imminent for Cleveland. They are far from the team that was consistently making the playoffs over the past decade and other than a few quality pieces, the rest of their roster is bland. If they do look to move a controllable asset in Ramirez, I believe that could be the first of many dominoes to fall in regards to Cleveland shipping talent out.
It would take a haul of prospects to get it done, but I think the Jays have an opportunity to cross off multiple needs through Cleveland this winter and look to do some one stop shopping to improve their roster. Like I said, this will not come cheap, as a deal for Ramirez alone would cost at least a top 100 prospect, plus other assets as well.
Add one controllable starter like Civale or Bieber, a power bat in Reyes, or a closer like Emmanuel Clase and the price would sky rocket. However, the Jays need MLB talent. They are potentially losing a Cy Young candidate and an MVP hopeful, while also having to rebuild a disappointing bullpen.
Yes, it would be tough seeing more young assets leave this organization after we have already watched Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson depart. But, if Cleveland looks to kick start a rebuild, I think the Jays have to at least start a conversation around adding more than one of their impact players, which could help continue the upward trajectory this team has been on the past two seasons.